Think you know what a luxury hotel in Costa Rica looks like? Think again. This Central American country, crammed with five star eco lodges and stunning beach resorts, got a game-changing addition with the opening of Kura Design Villas in late 2012.
Four years ago owners and creators Martin Wells and Alejandra Umana, a young couple from Costa Rica, saw the property on a steep, jungle-covered hillside above the town of Uvita on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. Though they’d planned to open a humble surf shack on the beach they immediately saw a much, much grander project unfold along a stately ridge on the site.
It took three years of planning, designing and building but Martin and Alejandra pretty much created that initial vision. Martin is an architect who wanted a project in which he could control every aspect of design from the buildings to the furniture to, well, the hangers (yes, he designed those too). Alejandra is a biologist who wanted to be in nature every single day. They both got their wish.
At Kura, travelers looking for jaw dropping style and hospitality get their wishes fulfilled as well.
The six suites are stunners of modern, clean, sleek design—all teak, glass, stone, steel and polished concrete. Twin sinks are made from hollowed out boulders. The sexy showers are not for the shy. The super comfy beds have light and fan controls built smartly into the headboards. At turn down pillar candles are lit, the elegant white curtains are drawn and red lights are turned on under the bed and in the shower which Martin—obviously a big fan of the “floating” effect as almost nothing at Kura has a visible means of support including the showers—calls “destinations.” He’s not wrong.
Every suite has a six bottle wine refrigerator, a telescope and private furnished patios punctuated with Skittle-purple hammocks. Custom carved traditional Boruca masks, one of the few native handicrafts of Costa Rica, are unique to each room. A glass-topped niche inset into the floor in every entryway has a vibrant photo of local fauna set into it.
Sliding glass doors make the most of the vista from each suite which includes both sunrise and sunset and affords a panoramic view of one of the most beautiful stretches of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast including the iconic Whale’s Tail. Watch this spit of sand, which bears an uncanny likeness to a whale’s tail, appear and disappear with the shifting tides.
Design at this level normally has no room for ecological or sustainable concerns. Not so at Kura where ethics are as much a priority as esthetics. All wood is farmed and sustainable and bamboo is used wherever possible. All lights are LED and Martin managed to find bulbs that emit satisfying, flattering light. If you were to turn all of the lights on in your room (shame on you) you’d only be using the energy of one conventional bulb.
The chic black Emerson ceiling fans are silent and feature perfectly designed blades that move a massive amount of air even on the lowest and most energy-efficient setting. If you feel the need to use the air conditioners you can rest easy. They’re EcoX units which use inversion technology to reduce energy use. Cleaning products aren’t just biodegradable, they’re local as well which reduces the environmental impact of transportation.
Only three trees were cut down during construction of Kura and 30 solar panels keep the resort mostly off the grid. Martin and Alejandra are planning to double the solar capacity and eventually sell power back to the grid. All water that comes out of any tap has been purified with UV light, eliminating the need to provide bottled drinking water. The garden and landscaping was designed by Alejandra incorporating native, low-maintenance species to reduce water use.
The Kura staff is also entirely local except for the chef. Most were retained after showing promise while working on the construction of the hotel.
All of this explains why Kura was made part of the Cayuga Collection of sustainable resorts right off the bat.
Perhaps the best example of the marriage of eco and chic at Kura is the pool. It’s a four-way infinity edge design tiled in jade green that’s so stunning it’s worth buying a new bathing suit for. There’s a gas fire pitinside the pool. Underwater speakers too. And the whole thing is kept clean using a non-salty salt process instead of chlorine.
Of course there’s a spa and a noteworthy menu which includes homemade bread and croissants, locally caught fish and vegetables from their own hydroponic greenhouse. The chef’s traditional white jacket has even been “Kura’d” with cheeky strips of jaguar-print fabric (Kura means “jaguar” in the Boruca language) sewn in along the sides.
One tip: the dirt road up to Kura is not nearly as bad as their website makes it seem so don’t be scared away. Besides, Kura drivers in Land Rover 4X4s capably handle the 20 minute scenic shuttle from a secure parking lot low on the mountain up to the resort itself.
The polished details and intuitive touches throughout Kura make it almost impossible to believe that Kura is the first hotel project (but hopefully not the last) from Martin and Alejandra. Costa Rica, consider the bar raised.
Rates from: $440 double occupancy including transfers from the town of Uvita.
Kura Design Villas
Uvita, Costa Rica
+ (506) 8448 5744
Our review of this luxury boutique hotel was originally published by iTraveliShop
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